Don’t Forget Leona Canyon, This Year

All the bigger parks usually get our attention, but we did another full walk at Leona Canyon over the holidays.  You ramble through a beautiful canyon, complete with “babbling brook” sound effects.

Start at the southern Canyon Oaks trail head, right past the condos.  Now walk from this open area into the woods after a quarter mile or so.  This is the nicest wide trail, with a slight uphill grade as the canyon envelops you.  You could stop by the bench and return, for a quick 1.5 mile walk with the dog or kids.

Leona Canyon Map

There are other options, too.  Less than a mile in, you may turn right on an unmarked trail (Artemisia) that rises several hundred feet, ending near Skyline Blvd.  Or continue along and catch the signed trail (Pyrite) on the left, which meanders up the opposite canyon hillside.  Both of these trails are very good uphill workouts, and I highly recommend them.

If you keep going on the main canyon trail, then you will eventually head up and up to Merritt College.  The views make this out-and-back 2.7 miler worth it.  You feel so removed, yet are just tucked away from the surrounding ridges and civilization.

Want company the first time?  The East Bay Regional Park District has planned some special Leona Canyon events.  Learn about the indigenous peoples and how they lived among the berries and willows, appreciate the local birds, or else go for a nice walk with Fido and his friends in the canyon.  Here are details:

  • Sunday Stroll — February 20th, from 10:00am – 12:00pm.  Sara Fetterly will lead this moderate hike from Canyon Oaks trailhead to Merritt College and back.  Native American plant uses are highlighted along this scenic path.  This short stroll is great for families, and dogs are welcome.  No advanced registration is needed.  For more info, call (510) 544-3187.
  • Tuesdays For The Birds — March 15th, from 7:30am – 9:30am.  Enjoy bird life with guide Bethany Facendi, through Leona Canyon.  All levels of birding experience welcome.  Bring water, sunscreen and binoculars or scopes.   No advanced registration is needed, but call (510) 544-2233 for trailhead location.
  • Volunteer Day — Sunday, March 20th, from 10:00am – 2:00pm.  Help showcase the self-guided trail “Local Indian Uses of Plants.”  Protect and promote featured native plants by weeding and pulling non-native invasive grasses and shrubs, and selectively pruning native plants.  Lunch, tools and gloves provided by leader Mike Charnofsky, and volunteers ages 10+ are welcomed at the Merritt College trailhead.  Registration is required, by calling 888-327-2757 (option 2, 3) or online (program #26057).
  • Birding By Ear — Sunday, March 27th, from 9:30am – 11:30am.  Join Michael Charnofsky for this concert experience.  Yes, it does count when you identify a bird by its song. Learn to identify bird songs in this beautiful canyon.  Meet at the Canyon Oaks Dr. Staging Area.  No advanced registration is needed.  For more info, call (510) 544-3187.

What I like best about Leona Canyon is that it feels like an oasis, and isn’t well-known like the nearby Chabot, Joaquin Miller, Sibley, Huckleberry or Redwood Regional Parks.  It’s a small park, but there are those who love it.

Where To Walk When It’s Too Hot

Today we’re supposed to hit 88 degrees, even in Oakland.  Yes, we know more robust East Bayers from the other side of the Caldecott Tunnel can take triple digits, but these temps are plenty hot for us.

To honor and respect the heat, the Montclair Hiking Club called off their weekly hike which had been planned for a distant red-hot spot.  That makes some sense, but you can always walk – even in the worst heat imaginable – in our local hills.

Typical Huckleberry Relief

Assuming you aren’t getting out there by dawn, don’t give up hope on Spare The Air Days!  The not-so-secret trees, and their fantastic shade, never disappoint the mid-day walkers.  Here are our favorite, reliable paths even in summer doldrums:

  • Huckleberry Relief – 90% shade – Take Huckleberry Path on the left (.05), turn right on Bay Area Ridge Trail (0.37) and saunter for a while in the woods (1.33).  Then veer right to return on Huckleberry Path (2.39).  See trail map and trail head.
  • Huckleberry-Sibley Traverse – 65% shade – Take Huckleberry Path on the left (.05), turn left on Bay Area Ridge Trail (0.37) and take another left (0.49).  Then zig right (1.30) and zag left (1.38) to land on a paved road (1.41).  Proceed uphill to take in a Mt. Diablo view and finally reach Round Top (est 2.0).  Retrace steps to Huckleberry (est 4.0).  See trail map and trail head.
  • Redwood Stream Trail – 90% shade – From Skyline, take the classic Stream Trail out and back, even when there’s zero running water.  Stay in the shade by sticking to this valley floor until trail’s end (1.93), and return the same way (3.86).  The walk can be shortened, since it’s an up-and-back route.  See trail map and trail head.
  • Redwood Classic – 75% shade – From Skyline, take West Ridge Trail and turn left on French Trail (0.59).  Make a left on Tres Sendas (1.19), right on Star Flower (1.43), left on French (1.60) and left on Chown (3.28).  At bottom, take a left on Stream Trail (3.82) and return back (5.75).  See trail map and trail head.
  • Redwood Peak – 95% shade – Park at Chabot Space & Science lot.  Take West Ridge Trail through Redwood Bowl and follow signs to Redwood Peak, even though they feel like side trails.  Yes this is all redwoods, all the time here (est 1 mile, round trip).  See trail map and trail head.
  • Joaquin Miller Park – 65% shade – Start at Sunset Loop and turn left on either Wild Rose or Fern Ravine.  Make a right on Sequoia Bayview Trail, and then head down Sunset Trail to return (est 2 miles, round trip).  An alternate route takes you left on Sunset Trail and Palos Colorados Trail along the stream, and then heads back (est 2 miles, round trip).  See trail map and trail head.
  • Leona Canyon Escape – 50% shade – From Canyon Oaks, take Leona Trail past the vestiges of a running stream.  Take a left on Pyrite Trail (0.73) and head upwards until trail’s end (1.53).  Return back to Canyon Oaks (3.06).  See trail map and trail head.

Now we have removed all the excuses, as you can luxuriate in Madrones or Redwood trees which pretty much snuff out the sunlight all year.  Feel free to suggest some of your own favorite escapes from the heated days too.